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Live Homer Simpson—What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Be it NFL football or a stage musical, live television is perhaps the surest way to beat time-shifting these days, and The Simpsons will give it a whirl on Sunday. The final three minutes will use motion capture to bring Homer, and only Homer, live. Dan Castellaneta, who voices Homer, will be in a booth, with his motions captured and translated into his animated doppelganger.

Viewers can submit questions to Homer—the writers will man phone lines—and Dan-as-Homer will riff off the questions. The rest of the show is pre-animated, but starting at 8:27, Homer will be in the moment.  

Al Jean has worked on The Simpsons since it became a series in 1989, and has been showrunner for over 300 episodes. But Sunday represents a first for him, and he’s a wee bit anxious. “Not just about this show,” he said. “Just about everything that ever happened.”  

Jean told reporters that Homer was selected—over, say, Bart—in part because of Castellaneta’s improv chops. “He’s terrific at improv and it was just a natural fit,” he said, adding that Homer is also the “central character” on Simpsons.

Normally, animation lead time is close to nine months, said Jean.

So anything can happen without that safety net. “I don’t want to sound like I’m taking a victory lap,” Jean stressed. “I understand it hasn’t happened. This is all presuming it goes well…The excitement of it is it may not be perfect [but] we’re trying something different.”